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China-Laos railway to launch the country into a new era development

China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017. (State Department/Released)
February 17, 2018

The construction of the US$6 billion project, which will run from the northern part of Laos to Vientiane, is scheduled to be completed by 2021. This is the first overseas rail route linking Laos to China’s network.

The Boten-Mohan border between Laos and China is the starting point of the 409-km Lao section of the China-Laos Railway project to Vientiane. When completed, the journey from Vientiane to Boten border point in Luang Namtha province will be reduced from around three days by road to less than three hours by train.

Upon completion it is expected to lead to an increase of traffic between the two countries. For example more parents in Laos will consider sending their children to study in China.

Today, more and more foreign students from Asian countries are coming to study in China, In 2016 there were 9,907 Lao students studying in China. This number was revealed at Chinese Embassy in Vientiane. In that year, Laos had the most number of students in the world studying in China.

Trade is booming, especially in forestry products, which are selling well. Furthermore, infrastructure in education and transportation will also be improved with this new railway.

Six Chinese companies are constructing the Boten-Vientiane railway, ensuring the application of Chinese standards, equipment and technology. The Lao section of the railway will run south toward Vientiane through the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientaine.

A Chinese-Lao translator, Mr Visay Sayavong, 23, said he works with the construction railway company No. 5 of China in Luang Namtha province. There are three villages located within the vicinity of the construction site; Boten, Tinsan and Nateuy. Since construction began, many people have been employed in the construction companies allowing people to earn more money.

“It’s helping to create work for local citizens in Nateuy village in Luang Namtha province and other villages nearby,” he said.

One village says that previously their village found it hard to sell their products but since construction began, the market has expanded and the villagers are able to sell food to the workers of the project.

Nowadays, buying vegetables and other foods is very convenient. Some food and vegetables imported from China are also sold in the market. Now, the market has been upgraded to include a multi-purpose room where people can sell goods providing more opportunities for development.

Before the railway construction project, the road to the village was bumpy and inconvenient. But now, the Chinese railway company has built good roads leading up to the village.

China will finance and own 70 percent of the railway, while Laos will be responsible for the remaining 30 per cent.

A 9.68-kilometre railway tunnel will connect both sides of the border with 7.17 km in China and 2.51 km in Laos.

When up and running, the Vientiane terminus will link to the railway network of Thailand that stretches to Bangkok and further connects to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and eventually to Singapore.

Passenger trains will run at 160 kilometers per hour in mountainous areas and up to 200 km/h on the plains, while freight trains will run at 120 km/h.

At the moment, the only railroad in Laos is a 3.5-km extension of Thailand’s state railway network.

When completed, it will be a crucial link for passenger and freight trains, connecting the rail networks of both countries.

Construction of the railway project is 20.3 percent complete as of December 2017 one year after construction began, according to Lao authorities.

Laos will also be able to receive benefits faster in the area of socio-economic development because the train from Laos will run to China and then from there can link to Europe. So far, more than 7,000 freight train trips have been made between China and Europe.

China’s top economic planner said on Friday that 86 countries and international organisations have signed 100 cooperation agreements with China under the Belt and Road Initiative.

©2018 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)

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